Voter registration, domicile, and the location of your pillow

As we get into the “silly season” of election administration frenzy, it’s worth connecting two stories hours apart — the piece on Romney’s mistaken registration address to the story about GOP scouring of voter rolls in Illinois.

The Romney article in the Salt Lake Tribune claims that Romney had filed a registration paper “using a home address he couldn’t legally claim since 2009.”  The sole reference in the story to the reason he couldn’t claim that address is that he sold the house in 2009.  This is the second time Romney has filed registration paperwork for an address where he wasn’t apparently actually sleeping.

But there is often an unappreciated difference between someone’s legal voting address and where they currently sleep.  

The easiest examples concern deployed military servicemembers.  Voting usually depends on domicile — often, the last place someone lived with an intent to remain indefinitely.  Someone on temporary sojourn(s) elsewhere may be lawfully and appropriately registered at an address they left decades ago.  Romney’s selling the house in 2009 doesn’t give enough information to know whether he could legally claim the address for voting purposes. 

Which brings me to the Illinois article.  It states that operatives are “looking for addresses where utility service has been cut off to determine if registered voters have moved.”  That’s an indication that registered voters may not be home.  But it does not tell you where their legal home is.  And confusing the two gets eligible citizens tossed off the rolls.

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